Tony Heaton: The Grand Tour, with The Tourette’s

Blue Sky Idea

Proposal Info

Artist Name

  • Tony Heaton

Artist Website


  • Shandy Hall

“The Grand Tour, with The Tourette’s

Performance with Film, Sound and Voices.

  • Sterne in Italy
  • The nature of the Grand Tour
  • Diaries, the form and content, the personal (sometimes made public)

Sterne in Italy

This is an annotated translation of an extract from the Grand Tour diary of Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst (1733-1814), the illegitimate son of Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau…

…At Rome I was next to him (Sterne) in the Sistine Chapel when they were singing the famous Miserere in Easter Week. He was so full of remarks that this melancholy ceremony inspired in him, that not being able to contain himself he continually whispered to me, and often so loud, that his voice was as audible as the Orchestra of Eunuchs. ‘For heaven’s sake! My dear Sir,’ I said, ‘you will have us ignominiously ejected.’  In the end, despairing of keeping him quiet, I found myself obliged to go and find another seat.

The relevant passage also contains unique details of Sterne’s physical appearance and behaviour…

I want to use the essence of this observation and the context, the idea of behaviour and disruption… 

The images it creates for me, of the ceremony, the grandeur and significance of the Sistine chapel, the playing of the melancholy Miserere, and the setting of Psalm 51 by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri. Composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, during the 1630s, for the exclusive use of the Sistine Chapel.

The excitement of Sterne, the loud-whispers, this clash of convention, etiquette, the lack of decorum in expected conduct will be what I explore in this work.

Using film for the recording of Miserere in three different key locations, the Sistine Chapel, York Minster and Stern’s local church where he preached;

Images of the burning of Sterne’s books and the whispering that creates an atmospheric static throughout the piece, sometimes performed by Jess Thom, (Touretteshero)’, and others in a whispering choir.


Sterne in Italy

I have highlighted in bold what will become the working script for the project.


The piece will have a number of elements:

  • A tryptic of screens on three walls.
  • The imagery will be of the performance of the Miserere, filmed in three locations.
  1. The Sistine Chapel
  2. York Minster
  3. Sterne’s local church where he preached

Each film will be shown simultaneously but will be subtly different in imagery, the people in the choirs, architecture of location, the nature of the filming and editing. Each will generate its own sound.

  • Cut into each film, almost subliminally, will be short bursts of external imagery, based on the bold highlights in the primary Sterne in Italy text/script – the laughter of costumed women, the sound of licking, the burning of books, the Archbishop, sailing ships. Dover/Italy, Sterne’s Portrait.

It will be immersive.  Its melancholy will become discordant, disjointed, disrupted…

There is something of the reading of the diaries of others suggested in the piece, this notion of ‘private thoughts’ – the whispers of impropriety…

There is also a dark humour to it, important when thinking of Sterne. Humour will be important –

Whispering over the Miserere –

  1. A Whispering Choir – The choir are called The Tourette’s – and might be led by someone like Jess Thom (Touretteshero)
  2. The whispers would be text from the writings of the Italian journey, but they must be whispered in a way that it’s hard to make out….
  3. The recordings will also be played in all rooms and in the garden though it would be random in selection, timed, looped.
  4. In addition to the piece created for the immersive gallery space the sound track of the performance of the Miserere would be played randomly and at different volumes throughout rooms in the house and, importantly, out in the garden. The sound track would have the whispering also at differing volumes, this would create an air of mystery, confusion and curiosity to know what was going on before entering the Hall and coming across the Immersive gallery space.”


    -Tony Heaton

I am concerned with my own existence and my interaction with both the material and non-material world.  In my interaction with other humans I am almost always reminded that I am perceived as a disabled person, this is manifest in their actions towards me and their interaction with me.

Much of my work explores my personal analysis of these everyday interactions. Sometimes art making becomes self-psychoanalysis.

As a sculptor I work with a wide range of materials depending on what material is right to develop the idea. I constantly return to direct carving of stone as a discipline but I often use what has been called ‘the impedimenta of disability’ in my work.  This might be charity collecting cans, old wheelchairs or invalid carriages, my intention being to transmute or subvert them into something else through sculpture. I have also worked with light, neon and film.

My work has also utilised found materials and objects that have had a particular identity and could be transmuted as part of the realisation of the idea.  As a disabled person, many of the objects I have used or ideas I have pursued have been within a disability context and have resonated with my experience as a disabled person, both individually and in my interaction with the world.

There are usually layers of meaning to entice other humans into the work or the game of it.  Disabled people often seem invisible or ‘other’ and I have explored this notion.

Predominantly I am interested in how thoughts and ideas can be translated into form and therefore say something in a new and expressive way.

I return to themes, usually when I review older works or ideas that were never fully resolved at the time.  I am reminded of Henry Moore’s comment about walking along the same stretch of beach but finding new and interesting stones that had been there, unnoticed.  Or, like re-reading a book when you discover things that you had missed the first time, perhaps due to life and experience.

Instagram: @tonyheaton1